Local History

Turangi – An Historical Summary

The Maori of the Lake Taupo region are descendants of those who came to New Zealand on the double-hulled Te Arawa canoe. They settled in the Bay of Plenty on the East Coast and gradually moved inland to investigate the forested heart of the central North Island. These explorers and their descendants became known as the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe. Maori settled around Taupo Moana – ‘the inland sea’ – from the 16th century. Ngati Tuwharetoa encountered and conquered the inhabitants of the interior and established a new tribal domain. Their sons, in turn, established and marked out the sub-divisions of their territory.

Origin Of The Name “Turangi”

The town of Turangi is located near the head of Lake Taupo alongside the Tongariro River. The town takes its name from the Maori leader, Turangitukua, who was an important figure in the history of the south Lake Taupo area. After many battles, Turangitukua and his followers occupied land near the Tongariro River and he, along with several other Chiefs, assisted the Ngati Tuwharetoa people to become established in the Taupo region.
For some time, Turangitukua was the keeper and guardian of the tribal God Rongomai. His name was adopted as the name of the local sub-tribe, or hapu, of Maori people in the delta region of the Tongariro River. It remains so today and the culture centre of the people of Ngati Turangitukua is the Hirangi Marae in Turangi.

Fishing Village

It was not until the 1830’s that the first Europeans reached the isolated centre of the North Island of New Zealand. They noted there were about 2,000 inhabitants in scattered settlements around Lake Taupo. The largest Maori community close to the Turangi area was located at Tokaanu and consisted of about 300 people. It was not until the turn of the century that Europeans began to settle in Turangi. This followed the introduction of brown and rainbow trout into the lake and rivers of the area in the 1880s and 1890s.
The building of a bridge over the Tongariro River in 1891 and the establishment of a major north – south road link through the heart of the North Island also assisted the growth of a small trout fishing settlement close to the bridge. A few cottages were built on sections nearby and angling camps, with tents and some huts, were built at fishing pools along the lower Tongariro River. In the 1920s only the pools below the road bridge were fished intensively as access was still difficult above the bridge. Most visitors stayed at hotels in Tokaanu until the 1920s when ‘Hatch’s Camp’, later known as ‘Taylor’s Lodge’ was built in Turangi in an area near the river known as Taupahi.
At this stage, the fledgling settlement was called by various names: Tongariro Bridge, Tongariro Junction and Taupahi. However, when a Post Office opened in 1931, local Maori elders named the settlement Turangi, which is an abbreviated form of both the ancestral name Turangitukua and the name of the local hapu.
In the 1920s two prison farms were opened at Rangipo and Hautu because of the isolated nature of the area. The Tongariro River had gained an international reputation for its fishing. Several Crown sections were auctioned in the 1930s to become the nucleus of a small village. The Bridge Lodge was built near the road bridge at Turangi and opened in 1933.
In the 1950s, Turangi was still a sleepy fishing hamlet. By 1960 the population of this essentially rural Maori community had reached 500. Settlements stretched along the riverbank on what is now known as Taupahi Road (formerly the main north – south highway) and along the old State Highway 41 (now called Hirangi Road).

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